Competing Cultural Worldviews in the United States: A Phenomenological Examination of the Essential Core Elements of Transnationalism and Transculturalism

Article excerpt

In many ways, the United States is a country of immigrants. According to Pedraza (2006), U.S. history has been shaped by four distinct waves of immigration. The first wave (18th-19th century) consisted of large numbers of immigrants from Northern and Western Europe, as well as the forced migration of persons from Africa. The second wave of immigration (19th-20th century) came largely from Eastern and Southern Europe. The third wave reflected one of migration, and not necessarily immigration. It involved an internal migration of African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans, relocating from the south to the north (1924-1965). The final wave of immigration started approximately 40 years ago and featured a large influx of people from Asia and Latin America; recently, these individuals have come to represent more than 50-75% of all immigrants in any given year (Larsen, 2004).

Of particular interest to this research study are the ways in which current immigrant populations are different from those of the past. We are especially interested in how contemporary immigrant experiences are regarded by second-and third-generation immigrants. According to Huntington (2005), none of the top five nations of origin for immigrants in 1960 (i.e., Italy, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Poland) were the same for 2000 (i.e., Mexico, China, the Philippines, India, and Cuba). This trend, alone, has had a tremendous effect on the cultural landscape of the U.S. However, just as important to acknowledge, are the ways in which immigrant experiences no longer follow a process of natural, continuous, and irreversible cultural assimilation (Suarez-Orozco, 2000). As such, the U.S. continues to (re-)define its stance on immigration and negotiate the tensions that are inherent in political, social, and cultural debates related to the topic (Domke, McCoy, & Torrres, 2003). As articulated by Barkan (2007), immigrant experiences remain a salient issue for contemporary research.

The focus of our study explores the current cultural landscape of the U.S., with a particular concentration on how individual communicative experiences inform, and are informed by, larger cultural realities. More specifically, the objective of this study was to examine inductively the complex ways in which everyday discourse reflects larger--and often competing--cultural worldviews. In doing so, we sought to offer much needed clarification to the convoluted usage of existing terminology (i.e., transnationalism and transculturalism) to describe various communicative processes and experiences. As Kavoori (1998) has described, these terms have "gained considerable currency ... [and] indicate a categorization of global experience in expansive terms--i.e. beyond traditional models of nation-states and discrete cultures" (p. 202). Yet, conceptualizations of both transnationalism and transculturalism remain inconsistent across contexts (Barkan, 2007). Within our scholarly inquiry, we regard transnationalism and transculturalism as competing cultural worldviews. Consequently, we utilize a phenomenological analytic frame to reveal the ways in which diverse communicative experiences reflect the essential elements that function at the core of each paradigm. Prior to the explication of these thematic insights, we present summaries of our conceptual framework.

Conceptual Framework

Early in the 20th century, Randolph Bourne (1916) used the term, transnationalism, to describe an enlightened means to think about relationships between different cultures. Over the years, transnationalism has been embraced as a means to highlight the increasing sense of connection between people and the demarcation of national, state, and cultural boundaries (Fraser, 2007). In this sense, contemporary scholars have engaged various forms of transnationalism as a point to explore commonalities of a people regardless of national or geographic boundaries and the ways in which such positionality is steeped with issues of power, oppression, essentialism, and hegemony. …